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My home and native land

June 30th, 2008 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana | Issues - (Comments Off on My home and native land)

This is my favourite time of year, a time when I am usually (26 out of 27 years) in that national capital region for the greatest celebration this city ever sees.

I am Canadian, a fact that makes me very proud (most of the time), and there is nothing I love more than seeing 30,000 other proud Canadians gather together in my city to celebrate the mere notion that we get the chance to live in this great country.

I love showing off the maple leaves tattooed on my left shoulder blade – I took great joy in the fact that my wedding dress did not cover them – especially on July 1. I love having others know that I am Canadian. It is a huge part of my identity.

This year, more than most, I find myself analyzing my Canadianess. I find that I am thinking more about what needs to change here that what is great. I hope that others are doing the same. It seems that we are failing at many things, at least according to some. There are things we’re clearly getting wrong, things we’re not acting on, and things we’re not acting on quickly enough.

Things I want to see Canada improve:

  • Our treatment of Aboriginal peoples.  I have lived in several areas near reserves and seen vastly different treatment of these people. Many Canadians seem to hold grudges against the so-called preferential treatment of our First Nations (yeah, they get tax-exemptions, they also had their identity stripped from them over hundreds of years of mistreatment). I have witnessed stereotyping and I have witnessed the stereotypes. When it all comes down to it, what options have we really given them?
  • Climate change/Global warming. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m sick of people thinking they can’t do anything when it’s been proven that little changes can change a lot. Too many people think their convenience is more important that the future of the planet.
  • International Human Rights. This is something that I wish Canada was a world leader on. We have so many great people here who speak out about the problems faced by the world’s least fortunate – Romeo Dallaire and Stephen Lewis to name just two. When I was in university I could see the passion that Canada’s young people show for these issues, but our political leaders are missing out. Sure, they condemn China’s treatment of Tibetans and place sanctions on Zimbabwe, but what does that really accomplish? – This being said, we also have a lot of things to deal with on our own soil and I don’t deny that. Canada has too much poverty and the split between rich and poor is too large.

There’s more, I’m sure there’s a lot more, but in my celebratory mood I can focus on those three or four things and assume that there are Canadians out there who see those problems and are even taking steps to fix them, taking steps to help people and support change.

The great thing about being Canadian, and the thing that makes me feel so lucky, is that we have the opportunity to create change here. All the problems we face are fixable and we live in a country that is lucky enough to be a potential part of the solution. There are so many things we don’t have to worry about that we can think about wider issues. And that is why I celebrate every year, every day, that I was born here.

Pave paradise and put up a parking lot

June 26th, 2008 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Personal - (Comments Off on Pave paradise and put up a parking lot)

There are things that strike you in the oddest places.

Something that I’ve been trouble with for a while is the fact that we live in a world where very few people seem to think about anything but themselves. We don’t care about changing our habits, we don’t care about the way we treat people – it’s all about our convenience. We drive SUVs because it’s convenient for us and we don’t give them up until the price of gas starts to effect us. We don’t really worry about how much energy we’re using and what we’re doing for climate change because shouldn’t someone else be responsible for making those changes?

This has never been clearer than in the parking lot at Dairy Queen last night. People were parked everywhere. If there were no spaces it didn’t matter, they would just park somewhere. It didn’t matter that they were blocking someone else in or making it impossible to open the car door or move around the parking lot. All this for ice cream. I don’t understand why it wouldn’t occur to any of these people that they were causing a huge inconvenience – Unless it did occur to them, it just didn’t matter.

Parking seems to be the thing for me. I’ve seen people park illegally because they’re just going to be a few minutes, I saw a woman park in front of a fire hydrant during a time of day when parking on that street wasn’t permitted because she was only going to be a few minutes. Last winter, when there was four feet of snow on the ground and no place to put it I went to the doctor. The parking lot at my doctor’s office is not large and with all that snow trying to find a place to be it was even smaller. I drove around three or four times trying to find a space and finally ended up at the right place, right time when someone else was leaving. When I came out there was an SUV parked in a non-space right behind me, leaving me only one direction to be able to get out of my spot, when I finally maneuvered myself out of that spot, I found that two other cars had parked in the lane on the other side of the lot – one on the curb, next to a fire hydrant, in front of the disabled parking – leaving me barely enough room to get out without getting stuck or scratching my car and theirs.

At this point I started crying out of complete frustration.

Why does no one look at the situation before doing something like that?

I have always been the kind of person who tries to do no harm – Mostly because I try to stay in the background and not get noticed. I try to stay out of the way, stay invisible. I’m not always successful at this, but I don’t think I’ve ever caused anyone to cry in frustration.

Now to the main frustration in my life right now: The environment.

I don’t know what to do about climate change. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, reading about it, watching other people do things, but I don’t know what to do about me and my actions.

There are things I think I do well, there are things I know I have to change (and am trying to remind myself to change) and there are things I am unwilling to change. There are also things I know I can’t do, for instance: I am a renter (for the time being), I would love to be able to improve the insulation in my home and replace the windows, and even consider applying solar panels, but I don’t have that option. I don’t have the option of buying energy efficient appliances.

All these things, by the way, are things that frustrate me about the Liberal Green Shift. It’s all well and good to increase costs to force people to make smarter choices, but where are the solutions? It seems as though my costs will just go up and up with no options for me to change that, being a renter and someone who can’t afford to buy a hybrid at the moment, but still needs to go places.

I do what I can – I turn off the lights, we use compact fluorescent bulbs, we go to the farmer’s market to buy local produce, I take the bus to work, we’re moving into a smaller place (which is newly renovated, so should be much more energy efficient and should also have high efficiency appliances) that also happens to be within walking distance from the husband’s workplace so he won’t be driving anymore. I also want to start composting if we can, along with the recycling we do.

What I don’t do well is that I am a consumer. I fully admit and realize that I have bought in to the North American consumer culture and while I believe that I think about the problems of the world more than some other people, I also know that there are times when I’m not thinking about those problems at all (or my financial responsibilities) just that I want to go to the mall, and I feel as though I really need that new pair of pants.

I have been told that just by thinking about these things I am doing something that others might not be, but it’s the thinking about it that makes it so hard. I often think that being stupid would be so much easier. I think about the climate, and Zimbabwe, and Darfur, and Afghanistan, and Burma, and China, and parking lots and I wonder how I can really consider having children (something that on other days seems like an inevitability) in a world that’s in so much trouble – In a world that I often hate. Knowing that my children will be just as passionate about these things as my husband and I, how can I really consider having any?

I have a lot of complaints about the media – though I will defend them to the day I die, for whatever reason.

It is a very hard job to do and I respect most who devote their lives to information, but sometimes they report the story in a way that’s just not right and that hurts the profession more than it helps anyone.

I have seen it happen so many times since I started watching the news for a living – reporters go into a press conference. . .Sorry, media conference (I got yelled at by a broadcast journalist once for calling them press conferences, as that apparently shows a bias to the print media). . .Yeah, I know. . .They expect one story, they ask their questions and report on the story and get it wrong, reporting their expectations rather than the actual facts. The government’s announcement on BPA was the most painful example. For a week before the announcement the rumours were that the government would be banning BPA (potentially cancer-causing chemical used in hard plastics, food cans, etc.). After the announcement almost every outlet reported it differently – That the chemical had been banned, that it would be banned at the end of the year, etc.

The actual story was that the chemical would be banned in plastic baby bottles if no new evidence was found after 60 days of public consultation, but there was not sufficient evidence that it was really all that dangerous for adults – in fact, banning it in baby bottles was the government being “better safe than sorry.”

CP was the only outlet that told the story as the press conference presented it.

Today I watched the Cabinet shuffle (or re-alignment as CBC has dubbed it). There weren’t any real surprises and there was very little to talk about, especially since none of the three who attended the swearing in made any sort of real comment when they left Rideau Hall. The Prime Minister himself only made one comment as he got into his car: “We’re on the right track, we’re going to stay on the right track. I hope to see you at the garden party.”

That was what he said, that’s all he said. I was watching it live.

A few minutes later Mike Duffy reported on CTV that Harper had said (this is from the transcript): “Mike: As the Prime Minister left, Jaqueline, he said this is a minimalist cabinet shuffle that gets us back on track.”

Please note that this is not, in fact, what the Prime Minister said at all. Duffy went on to say that the statement he misquoted showed that the PM knows just how far off-track his cabinet went in the last session. Seeing as the actual quote indicated that he thinks they are on the right track and staying on the right track, I would argue that his statement does not indicate this at all.

My husband this that this occurs because veteran journalists decide what the story will be before anything even happens, and none of the facts can change it. Whatever the cause, it’s a pretty bad way to inform people.

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